A Prayer for Wisdom and Forgiveness

From a Psalm Writer to My Ears

I came home from the road the other day and is always the case my office was just a little bit rearranged by my loving children. There was laundry on the chair, my files where were I couldn’t find them and all sorts of stuff I didn’t recognize littered my desktop.

But there was also a Gideon Bible with the New Testament and the Psalms. (Where it came from I dare not ask.) The Bible was bookmarked to the 39th Psalm — a prayer for wisdom and forgiveness.

Now the Psalms are interesting things. Sit in a synagogue some day and let their heartfelt and stirring melodies wash over you. You can read them as dogma, as rant or as philosophy.

But on this day, tired from the road and the weirdness in which we all find ourselves, I read them as practical advice given to me by someone centuries ago who must have had a keen mind, a good heart and thorough way with words.

Here is Psalm 39

I said, “I will guard my ways
 that I may not sin with my tongue;
 I will keep a muzzle on my mouth
 as long as the wicked are in my presence.”
 I was silent and still;
 I held my peace to no avail;
 my distress grew worse,
 my heart became hot within me.
 While I mused, the fire burned;
 then I spoke with my tongue:

“Lord, let me know my end,
 and what is the measure of my days;
 let me know how fleeting my life is.
 You have made my days a few handbreadths,
 and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight.
 Surely everyone stands as a mere breath
 surely everyone goes about like a shadow.
 Surely for nothing they are in turmoil;
 they heap up, and do not know who will gather.

“And now, O Lord, what do I wait for?
 My hope is in you.
 Deliver me from all my transgressions.
 Do not make me the scorn of the fool.
 I am silent; I do not open my mouth,
 for it is you who have done it.
 Remove your stroke from me;
 I am worn down by the blows[a] of your hand.

“You chastise mortals
 in punishment for sin,
 consuming like a moth what is dear to them;
 surely everyone is a mere breath.Selah

“Hear my prayer, O Lord,
 and give ear to my cry;
 do not hold your peace at my tears.
 For I am your passing guest,
 an alien, like all my forebears.
 1Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again,
 before I depart and am no more.”

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